Finding the right pace is a critical detail for distance runners.
It has been one of Lauren’s Paul strengths during her high school career.
The West Muskingum senior hopes that plan can help her become the school’s first four-time All-Ohioan in cross country during Saturday’s Division II state meet at National Trail Raceway.
The top 25 placers earn All-Ohio status, and the top 15 reach the podium.
“You can’t kill yourself early and you need something left at the end,” Paul said. “You have to break away from the big pack (at the start) and not fall too far behind the lead pack.”
The steady runner has followed that strategy to become one of the area’s best, winning two Muskingum Valley League championships and a district title.
She burst on the scene as a freshman, finishing 24th in the state at Scioto Downs and carried that success to NTR where she placed 13th as a sophomore and 22nd as a junior.
“I’m hoping to bring down my time, but I’m peaking at the right time,” Paul said. “I would like to get on the podium again, and getting All-Ohio four times would be a nice achievement to finish my high school career.”
Paul has stuck to the same approach. She runs around 30 miles per week and focuses on speed training during practice.
Academics keep Paul sharp — she’s a straight-A student — and the competition of younger sister, Madison, doesn’t hurt either.
“I try to keep balance (with running and academics), and I stay busy,” Paul said. “I’ve been running with my sister for a long time. She pushes me in practice, especially on the easy days.”
Paul has been able to overcome any obstacle, and the first mile will be the toughest test. Tornado coach Renee Ware knows conserving energy will be vital.
“This race is going to be very competitive, and there will be handful of girls who can finish in the low 18-minute time frame,” Ware said. “It’s all about getting a good start. You can’t really afford to get blocked in the middle to the back of the pack. Going out strong is key, and Lauren has been able to do that the past three years.
“Once she settles in during that first mile, she just needs to run her race, while having a strong push to finish.”
Paul said there is some pressure, but she has overcome that feeling before.
“I’ve always tried to have confidence, and I’m nervous before any race,” she said. “But, once I start running, I focus on other things. I try to stay in a good pack, and I work on my breathing and my form. I don’t want to leave anything out on the course.”
Finishing strong has been an asset for Paul, and Ware expects nothing less in Paul’s final race.
“This is a great opportunity for Lauren. This is what she has worked so hard for the past four or five years,” Ware said. “It’s state and anything can happen. But because of her drive and work ethic, I believe she has a very good chance of her achieving her goal. (A four-time All-Ohioan) would be a great accomplishment.”